Budgeting 101


One major “adulting” thing we need to deal with is how to manage our finances.  I guess we all want the same things — spend for our needs, have some extra for our wants and save for the future.  However, resources are almost always limited and so we need to learn how to allocate them properly.  And that’s where the struggle becomes all too real.

I have been budgeting (or at least trying) for as long as I can remember.  When I was a student, I would budget my allowance for food, transportation and make sure I’d have some left for weekend hangouts with friends.  When I started working, I included shopping money, share in the household expenses and some savings in my monthly spending equation.  Budgeting got a way more complicated when I became a wife and a mom because I was already planning, not just for myself, but our entire household.

I read up a lot on budgeting tools and techniques and tried out those which I thought fit my needs and circumstance.  From those I read up on, I would recommend the 50-20-30 Rule by Elizabeth Warren.  It is simple and easy to understand that it makes the task less daunting.


Simply put, it states that you have to allocate your budget into three broad categories:

  • 50% is for essentials like mortgage payments, groceries and utilities.  These are the non-negotiables that you need to take care of month in and month out.
  • 20% should be alloted for savings and investment.
  • 30% remainder is for everything else that you want which includes shopping, movies, eating out and travels

As a first step, you need to know how much your regular monthly take-home pay is.  This is the money which goes into your payroll account, net of all taxes and deductions.  Knowing this will give you a clearer picture of how much you are working with.

Once you’ve determined your net pay, the next crucial step is to differentiate your needs versus your wants.  Here, you really have to be stringent and meticulous with what you consider “needs” so as to keep with the 50% guideline.  For example, utilities like water and electricity are needs.  However, cable television, while it may fall under utilities, is not technically a “need”.  This is something that should be included in the remaining 30% of the budget.

It is important to stick with the 20% rule on savings and investment.  First things first, though.  If you have a debt that accummulates monthly like credit cards or personal loans, it makes more sense to pay those off first before saving.  Once you are done with loan repayments, start building an emergency fund.  This fund can be between 3 to 6 months of your monthly expenses, whichever amount you feel comfortable with.  If this is set in place, then you can study options for investments which would vary depending on your risk profile, goals and time horizon.

I personally like the 50-20-30 Rule because of its flexibility.  It gives me the structure that I need to ensure that my needs and savings are secured but at the same time, it gives me a little bit of an elbow room to determine where I spend my money.  This budget guide is pretty straightforward, making it easy to use and less complicated than most.  Since it’s quite simple, I am able to follow through with my plans and budget with more success.

I hope this post will help you get started with your own budget if you still don’t have one.  If you do have one, feel free to share your tips and budgeting tricks as well so we can all learn from each other.

Cheers! 🎉


5 Easy Ways to Save (Without Feeling the Pinch)

I have always considered myself as a frugal person.  I attribute this to my parents who have taught us early on that money does not grow on trees and so, should be spent wisely.  At a young age, we were “trained” to distinguish which are needs and which are simply wants.  Case in point:  while shopping for school supplies and I asked for those cute Sanrio pencils, we were told that we only needed Mongol pencil #2.  The Sanrio pencils that costs twice as much were nice to have but we didn’t really need it at that time.  Growing up, we hardly had any extravagant material possessions but strangely enough, I never felt wanting.  Maybe it’s because we’ve always had enough of what we needed and extras were spent on experiential things like dining in fancy restaurants or family outings.


Now, as a mom myself, I try to teach my kids to also be save and be practical with their choices.  When they receive money as gifts, we take a portion of it for saving while they can spend the rest as they please.  It can be challenging at times but I am happy that they are learning to value money and saving at a young age.

Personally, I also try to keep finding ways to save from our household expenses.  I chanced upon an old budget notebook that i had when N & I were just starting out and I am shocked at how things (and expenses) have increased over the years.  I’ve never noticed but the small changes in spending behavior and lifestyle actually had a big impact on our budget.

So, after reviewing our current expenditure pattern, let me share with you a few easy ways to save without feeling deprived afterwards:

1.  Plan meals ahead. —  Planning meals offer a lot of advantages for me. Firstly, my family is ensured of a variety of food on the table.  Last thing I want is a whole week of chicken dishes because there is nothing else left on the fridge to cook!  Second, planning ahead minimized the stress of thinking what’s for dinner and for baon every single day.  A menu plan also works for my helper, who would already know what to prepare early.

Ensuring there is enough stock in the fridge and pantry also limited our emergency food take-outs and trips to the grocery.  While there is always the trusty sari-sari store, we know that their prices are always more expensive than the grocery.  Planning eliminated unnecessary shopping as well as over/understocking.

Lastly, as I recently involved the kids in coming up with our weekly menus, the food served is welcomed with delight and kid-approved! No more unfinished baon or spoilage! ☺

2.  Be conscious of the little things. — We rarely notice but the small efforts that we do can make a big difference.  How mant times have we been often told to switch off the lights when not in use?  And it does work!  So…turn off and unpug appliances especially when turning in for the night.  Close the faucet whie brushing your teeth.  Let natural light and air come in.  These may be insignificant acts but when put together, can make a dent in your water and electricity bill.


3.  Make use of rewards programs.  — I have a separate wallet with membership cards of various stores that we frequently visit.  Most big supermarket chains and department stores woud have a rewards program to encourage patronage.  One time, I was pleasantly surprised that I already accumulated Php1,000 from my grocery rewards card!  On a separate occasion, I was able to buy a blouse for myself using my rewards points too! ☺  I’ve used these points also to buy gifts or other items that were not originally part of my budget so it didn’t make me guilty for buying something not in my list. ☺

4.  Brew your own brew. — Coffee is something that I cannot live without.  I need my caffeine fix in the morning if you want me productive and functional.  There was a time when a trip to Starbucks or Tully’s became part of my daily routine…until I realized how expensive this habit was becoming.  I spend Php100-150 easily on a cup of coffee, which is approximately Php2,000 in a month’s time!  Good thing, I discovered this hazelnut-flavored coffee beans in the grocery.  500 grams costs about Php400 which is good for two weeks of coffee for me and the hubby!  That’s good savings right there without sacrificing on taste and flavor!


5.  Pay bills on time.  — I am usually prompt in paying bills and for credit cards, I make sure to pay in full because of the very high interest rates.  However, there was a time when I was so busy with work that I forgot to pay one credit card on time.  The delay in payment resulted in about Php3,000 in interest charges!  It may seem small but that amout could’ve been put to better use, right?  As soon s I got the bill, I called the credit card company and pleaded to reverse the charges.  Maybe they saw my payment history and decided to allow this one-time slip.  From then on, I promised to ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of due dates and pay on time.

These are just few of the many ways we can save without really feeling the pinch.  I am sure a lot of homemakers out there will also have some tips to share so feel free to do so in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you and learn some more. ☺